UAlbany eSports Ready to Build on Strong First Season

UAlbany eSports Ready to Build on Strong First Season

UAlbany’s “Overwatch” team takes photo with a bobsled at the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 18, 2020) – UAlbany’s eSports team has hit the ground running after the launch of Draper Hall’s competitive video gaming arena in November. 

The team of 75 students – one of the largest in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) – competed in 80 video games during its first season. This included advances to multiple ECAC Fall 2019 season championships and a medal-winning finish at Lake Placid’s Empire State Winter Games (ESWG). 

The Great Danes now turn their attention to ECAC’s Spring 2020 season and HV Gamer Con at the Albany Capital Center.

‘Overwatch’ Heroes

The success of UAlbany’s “Overwatch” team was a highlight of fall competition. 

The team was one of four invited to compete at ESWG 2020 – an annual set of Olympic-style competitions for amateur athletes from New York. ESWG added several eSports games last year. The tournaments are hosted at Paul Smith’s College where teams compete for medals and cash prizes.

UAlbany advanced through a 21-team bracket leading up to the main event. The team then knocked out St. Rose in the semifinals game before losing a tough battle against Alfred State in the ESWG championship. 

“Competing in ESWG was a life-changing experience for our students,” said Michael Leczinsky, UAlbany eSports director/head coach and professor of practice at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC). “It was a tremendous accomplishment just to be there and to experience the beautiful Adirondacks and the spirit of these amateur Olympic games. We absolutely hope to go back.”

UAlbany's eSports arena is equipped with a dozen high-performance Alienware Computers and six Nintendo Switch consoles.
UAlbany's eSports arena is equipped with a dozen high-performance Alienware Computers and six Nintendo Switch consoles. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

In the ECAC, the “Overwatch” team advanced to the finals as well, competing against reigning-champs Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) for the title. The cross-town rivals fought hard until the end, with RPI securing the victory after a stronghold from their defense in the final seconds. The game was broadcast live via YouTube with 700-plus viewers worldwide. Commentary was provided by UAlbany eSports players Amanda DeMizio and Lucas Molina. 

UAlbany’s “Madden” and “Fortnite” teams also advanced to Fall 2019 championships. Its “League of Legends” team was selected to participate in a pre-qualifier for the “Riot Games” tournament that features top players across the United States.

A Growing Roster

Following its early success, approximately 340 students filled out an application to join UAlbany eSports this semester. The team has expanded to 100 co-ed students for the spring, representing all class years, majors and diverse backgrounds. 

Leczinsky is also teaching CEHC’s first undergraduate class in eSports and game simulation this semester. The class is at full capacity with 30 students. 

The ECAC’s Spring 2020 season began earlier this month. Several of the league’s championships will be hosted at HV Gamer Con 2020 in early April. Last year, the event drew more than 2,200 spectators. It was the largest collegiate eSports event in the Northeast. 

“We are focused right now on making more championship runs,” Leczinsky said. “Our first season was overwhelmingly positive in terms of interest and performance. I believe it was an indicator of the things to come.”

Student interested in joining the team are encouraged to visit albany.edu/eSports